Mission and Principles

Mission and Principles

The School of Social Work is committed to a politicized social work practice that is grounded in a structural approach to social work.  This approach advances an awareness of broad and intersecting injustices caused by oppressive structures while preparing students to be effective and ethical practitioners.


Our goal is that graduates are able to integrate vision, knowledge, and skills for practice that may lead to social transformation toward a more equitable and just society. While seeking to develop and teach a politicized social work practice, we strive to remain open to new ideas, analyses, and realities that challenge and inform our ongoing efforts.


This mission reflects our principles:


  • To promote theoretical frameworks which address oppression in its multiple and intersecting forms.
  • To foster the research and teaching of practice strategies which facilitate the empowerment of people and groups experiencing oppression.
  • To engage in ongoing critical reflection and analysis on our pedagogy and praxis as a School.


The vision of the Faculty of the School of Social Work is to provide students with a social work education predicated on a progressive view of society and social work practice; a vision that is true to the profession’s fundamental values of humanitarianism and egalitarianism.


Faculty supports a dialectical understanding of society in which social welfare and social work contain contradictory forces, both liberating and repressive. The strategy for structural social work is to maximize the emancipatory potential of social welfare and social work, while neutralizing or minimizing their repressive elements. We believe that the goal of structural social work involves alleviating the negative effects on people of an exploitive and alienating social order, while transforming the social conditions and structures that cause the negative effects. To this end, the School is unique in providing students with the opportunity to participate in social change efforts at the community and government levels in a social action placement, in addition to a direct practice field placement.


Progressive social work practitioners act in solidarity with service users as citizens to challenge and propose alternatives to institutionalized domination and oppression. Advocacy, activism, and organizing for social justice must be part of “larger collective strategies rather than random, individual acts that expose smaller policies or practices of injustice but leave the larger systems untouched” (Baines, 2007, p.51).


As a political practice, social action to effect social justice can operate at both micro and macro levels of social work provision, through discovering ways of expanding existing practice to create linkages and build bridges for social change activities (Bombyk, 1995, p. 1934). A number of our social action placements are geared to helping conventional agencies think more strategically about their education, research, and outreach kinds of activities, in order that they have more direct impact in the public domain and influence policymakers and politicians more effectively.


“Many progressive social workers believe that the success of social work in the 21st century depends on further legitimizing progressive social work, improving social work education, preparing practitioners with improved methods, becoming more deeply involved in political practice in the public domain, and asserting a greater progressive presence within and outside the profession” (Bombyk, 1995, p. 1940). In our classroom teaching and field education, social action in pursuit of social justice is a critical component of our progressive social work vision.